Italy/London – Part 4 – Portovenere | February 2012

We had been in Lerici for a week and on Saturday we visited Cinque Terre in gorgeous weather – the forecasted rain never materialized. Any hope of a repeat of the nice weather for our trip to Portovenere vanished the moment we woke up on Sunday morning. Thick gray clouds scudded low across the horizon and a steady rain fell from the sky, quite heavy at times. The forecast called for a possible break in the rain in the afternoon, so we decided to hang around Lerici in the morning and walk around in the rain. The rain didn’t really let up by the time we finished lunch, so we just decided to take our chances and go to Portvenere regardless.

We drove through the beating rain, on the narrow winding roads, to Portovenere. About 45 minutes later, we arrived. The good thing about the rain was that we found a parking spot on Via Olivo right next to the harbor. We got our umbrellas out and started exploring. The colorful houses along the waterfront stood out despite the gray afternoon.

Portovenere

The village was practically deserted. We hadn’t done any research beforehand, so we quickly ducked into the tourist information office and found out a bit about the main sights, the Church of St. Peter and Doria Castle. We set off down Via Capellini.

On the way to Doria Castle

After climbing several stairways, we came upon Doria Castle. The ominous gray clouds actually added a suitable mood to the imposing castle. We first explored the ruins on the grounds, some preserved quite well. Aman had fun exploring the watchtowers, used to warn against pirates and other naval powers in the Mediterranean. Unfortunately, the castle itself was closed (despite the sign saying otherwise). But it was quite impressive standing among the well-preserved ruins of a 12th century castle.

Doria Castle, looking suitably imposing
Watchtower
Exploring the watchtower
Enjoying Doria Castle despite it being closed
Walking the castle wall

From the parapet, we could see the lonely Church of St. Peter, perched precariously on a rocky outcropping.

Church of St. Peter

One of the most impressive things we saw was a white marble window that had survived. While everything around it had crumbled, it still stood after 900 years, looking out over the sea. I wonder who had stood there and what they had seen over the centuries.

If these walls could talk, what stories would they tell?

With the castle closed, we made our way down to the Church of St. Peter. Along the way, we got glimpses of the coast shrouded in clouds and battered by the angry sea.

Portovenere coast

Built originally in the 6th century, the black marble building of the Church of St. Peter stood as a lone sentry; the Gothic architecture matched the day’s mood.

Church of St. Peter
View from the church
View from the church
Interestingly enough, the wall that surrounded the church courtyard had these slits (presumably for firing arrows) overlooking the narrow strait between Portovenere and Isola Palmaria

By this time, the rain had picked up a lot and was coming down in buckets. While we adults were doing okay, Aman had gotten absolutely soaked because he kept playing with his umbrella.

Soaking in the Italian rain

We made our way back down into the village, and found a little cafe along the waterfront that was open. We warmed up and dried out a bit there while having dinner.

As an interesting side note, my camera had gotten completely wet in the rain (because it extended out beyond the shelter of my small umbrella). I’ve heard everywhere (including from Canon) that the 5D Mark II, the 35L, and the 50 f/1.4 are not weather-sealed, but there I was, with that body and those lenses literally dripping water on the cafe table. Yet, no damage, and they all worked fine.

After dinner we turned up the heat in the car and made our way back to Lerici to finish up the following work week, before heading back to London for our short vacation.

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